Now, my mate Pandora has run four half-marathons in two years and my awesome buddy Jill completed an entire marathon last year before suffering a serious brain injury after falling off her bike during the Jacob’s Creek Down-under 120km bike race, so they’re both fully fit, full-on, determinedly powerful women.
...and I feel a bit left out.
See, I’ve been running since making it my new year’s resolution back in 2001. It’s the only resolution I’ve stuck with as stopping being too noisy; picking at my finger nail skin until it bleeds; giving up sugar/chocolate/cake; and trying not to be jealous or too much of a ‘Me too Me too ME TOOOOOO!’ person have all failed before the day was out.
So, here’s my Me Too contribution.
My first run, on 1st January 2001, was three laps around the second cricket oval at Trinity Gardens Primary School. Four hundred metres times three. I didn’t have the energy to jog the two blocks home afterwards. Walking and gasping my way back, an elderly Italian gent hosing his roses offered to spray me down too. I accepted.
September 2002 saw me run my first City to Bay fun-run in Adelaide – twelve kilometres. My training consisted of asking Love Chunks to drive around my self-designed running courses and measuring them on the car's odometer. 4km, 6km 8km and 12km which I ran regularly. I carried a water bottle in a bum bag for the 12km runs and could always tell what the Robern Menz factory were making that morning from the smell that wafted along Glynburn Road – mint for Crowns or sweet peaches for Fruchocs.
Time achieved – One hour, three minutes for 12 kilometres.
September 2003 – running was now ‘my’ thing and my four year old baby weight had finally gone. It was also the valuable alone time that didn't involve sitting on the toilet or sleeping with the aid of a sedative to figure out a few solutions and ideas. City to bay time – 58 minutes.
August 2004 – My twice-weekly six km runs and a weekly 12km run had swelled to a 6km, 12km and a 17km run by June. I was in my ridiculous workaholic career phase then and used to get up for a run at 5am in the dark. I figured that potential robbers and rapists were more likely to have headed home by then and, besides, they’d have to catch me..... All that and I had showered, dropped Sapphire off at daycare and be at my desk by 7:30am. But I was happy. Wasn't I?
Love Chunks and I had an argument the night before the race. He was (justifiably) concerned about the long hours I was putting in at work, my increased physical symptoms of stress and noticeable decline in energy, happiness and interest in life at home. I disagreed and we went to bed with it unresolved; both of us furious. The last thing he said was, “Oh and I’m NOT going to see you do your half-marathon tomorrow.”
Sunday morning arrived and I was at Pinky Flat by the Torrens River at 6.30am. We were bussed to Lockleys and froze in the darkness until the starter pistol fired at 7.30am.
I was sleep-deprived, lacked the appetite to eat anything before the race and felt utterly depressed. Instead of this being a physical achievement that would set me apart as not only an amazing career woman (already failing) and wife/mother (whump whow!), there’d be no-one to see me or even care if I was there.
By 14km I hadn’t stopped but also hadn’t bothered to check my time or distance. At 15km, I threw up on the bank of the river near the Convention Centre. I wanted to stay doubled over and lie on the cool, soft, unjudgmental grass but..... No. I’d trained too hard and on my bloody lonesome for this and wasn’t going to give up now. Wiping my mouth and sipping some water I started up again.
Soon after I heard Sapphire and LC call out from the other side of the bank. “Go Mum!” “Go Kath!”
They’d come! Just six more painful kilometres via tiring little hills up to the zoo and back with the whiff of gorilla poo in the air before staggering across the finish line in one hour, 52 minutes.
I cried with disappointment: I had estimated one hour, forty five but clearly hadn’t foreseen the technicolour yawn that had left smears of fragrant reminders on my leggings. As LC and Sapphire hugged my saturated, stinky self, my tears changed to those of pride. I’d done it!
That was as far as I had ever run and after having a complete and utter breakdown roughly seven months later I found myself on medication, seeing a psychiatrist, unemployed and exhausted. Clearly it was only going to be little runs for me from now on, in all senses of the word.
However, chocolate reviewing started and became rather serious and time-consuming. Unless I yearned to be the human embodiment of a Lindt ball I needed to do more than 6km trots three days a week.
From 2006 to 2010, give or take a busted Achilles, I’d do three 10km runs and two 8km power walks to counteract the effects of inhaling around 2-3 kilos of chocolate per week. Eventually however, my shins, Achilles (both legs), several toenails, two incredibly painful infected blisters, blood-soaked bras and a couple of severe colds saw me grudgingly accept the fact that my ageing body needed to be treated just a tad more delicately.
Which leads me to now. Geneva. Autumn with fog, rain and slippery footpaths due to the accumulation of wet and increasingly slimy leaves stuck to them.
Five kilometres from our apartment entry door and back.
First phase: Posing under the red light. I jog around 300 metres before being forced to wait until the little green man allows me to cross the road. Swiss lights are ultra careful – pedestrians get to cross without any cars from even the opposite direction allowed to drive as you walk. Nice in theory, but it can mean a five minute wait if you just miss your turn.
Wearing a baggy man’s t-shirt complemented by sticky bed hair and hairy white legs goose pimpled in the breeze means it’s a challenge to stand there pretending to be nonchalant when surrounded by several stylishly dressed women ready to totter across the road in stacked heels, designer leather and furs to work. They don’t bother to hide their stares - I’m a big alien – unkempt, unstylish and publicly prepared to be seen puffing. And not on a French cigarette.
Second phase: Gracious descent. Downhill for half a K, baby! What are my legs – springs, steel springs. And how fast can they run – as fast as a leopard! Oops, that’s unless it’s rubbish day when the mini street sweeper fights with the garbage truck for total ownership of the footpath and I’m forced to leap out into the bike lane and incur the wrath of surprised and then annoyed scooter owners....
....not to mention reaching bus stop Trembley and – without fail – involuntarily letting out a series of sharp and loud ‘Parp Parp Parp Parp’ farts as I run past a bunch of more well-dressed workers....
Third phase: Jogging up Jill Hill. This is in honour of my best friend, who is slowly recovering from a brain injury. This is the hardest spot in our local park – winding cruelly upwards with the cracked bitumen path peppered with chestnuts that could twist an ankle if stepped on. Not to mention skirting around little old ladies smoking like chimneys and ‘omitting’ to see the huge crap just done by their poodles.
Fourth phase: Suffering through Sapphire's Slope. I leave the park and jog back into the suburbs, winding further uphill past several large apartment blocks, a patisserie, Milly’s vet surgery, the most famous fondue house in the city and a primary school. I think of Sapphire and how she’s got through the worst of things with being bullied by an ex-friend in Melbourne and the uncertainties of starting high school at a new school in a new country. She’s happy, stimulated, busy, interested, funny and utterly lovely. My eyes sting as sweat mixes with moisturiser but I smile as well.
Mercedes and Beamer drivers with diplomatic licence plates stare at me blankly as I go by, usually wheezing in agony by this stage. Sophisticated couples and US-accented people having ‘work meetings’ are mildly entertained as I trot past their petite boulangerie, dripping sweat as I pass and trying not to slip on the pretty-but-dangerous cobblestones.
Fifth phase: (barely) Mastering Milly's mountain. Another bloody school up on top of the hill past the Red Cross and John 23 American church. I now think of my dog who would always choose to come running with me no matter how much her arthritis agonised her. Even now, four years after the diagnosis, there’s reproach in her eyes when I put on my sneakers and leave her behind.
Final phase: Kath's Cruise. Downhill for 400 metres all the way home. The apartment keys slide in my left hand, sticky from sweat. The second my feet touch the outdoor mat and the doors automatically slide open, I stop.
Hands on my knees, head down, gasping. A quick glance at my watch shows 26 minutes from start to finish. This is no great distance or time but when factors such as motivation, weather, laziness, time and dagginess are considered, I feel just as proud as I did in August 2004.